"There is something in humility which strangely exalts the heart."
- St. Augustine
I have known my friend Susan since high school. We became close when Susan started tutoring me in algebra. She never took money for her work. When we attended the same college, our friendship grew stronger. Susan is one of the kindest people I know. She is always optimistic. She always has time and encouraging words for her friends. There is nothing Susan won't do for a friend, whether it's putting a new roof on a house or filling out taxes. When I married and started to have children, Susan was thrilled for me. She witnessed every sacrament my family celebrated. She attended every major birthday party. She gives generously. She cares deeply. She is generous with her time, her talent, and her treasure.
Years ago I knew a man named Derek. He was the finance director of a large company we both worked for and, while we worked in different departments, we attended the same staff meetings and often worked side by side on contract negotiations. Derek was a brilliant finance director - always on top of projects, always prompt with budget projections, always ready with sound financial advice. Derek was also one of the kindest people I've ever known. He had a very gentle manner about him; I don't think I ever saw him get angry, even under the most stressful situations. He never partook in gossip, never cursed, and never made anyone feel inferior because they didn't understand the numbers. He listened patiently and thoughtfully. Whenever someone in the office was collecting for a charitable campaign, Derek was generous. After seven years of working with him, Derek moved on to a larger company and, while I was sad to see him go, I realized what a blessing he had been to me and all the other managers who worked with him.
Susan and Derek had a lot in common - both kind, both generous, both ready to help out at a second's notice. But they were very different. A short time after Derek left, he was diagnosed with stomach cancer and suffered for about a year before passing on. The minister that presided over his funeral talked about Derek's tremendous faith in God. It was the first time I learned that Derek was Christian. Of course, I wasn't surprised. It made perfect sense considering all of Derek's amazing qualities. I wondered, though, why I never heard Derek speak about God. My friend, Susan, on the other hand, is an atheist. She has no god. For years I have tried to lead Susan to Christ, but her mind is so rooted in science that her heart appears unable to see the One behind it all.
Why am I sharing all this with you? Derek and Susan both acted as wonderful stewards. However, did people on the receiving end of their generosity know who they were working for? Do people know who I work for when I act as a good steward? How can they tell if I serve our one true Lord, or Buddha, or Baal, or some other god, or no god at all? How will they know if I don't tell them? Is it enough to be good stewards? Or do we need to go one step further and tell those we serve about our one true God?
If we don't take the extra step of sharing the Gospel with those we serve, we risk missing an opportunity to turn them toward Christ, or to strengthen their relationship with Christ if they already know Him. We need to leave God's signature, not ours, on all the good things we do and bring glory and honor and praise to our Lord Jesus Christ. To do this successfully, we need to maintain a demeanor of humility so that others will recognize the One who sent us, and not mistakenly think we are acting alone.
As humans, humility is not one of our strongest assets. Think about Eve in the Garden of Eden. What was it the serpent promised her if she ate the forbidden fruit? He promised that if she ate it, she would be like God, her eyes would be opened, and she would know good and evil.
Since our creation, we've wanted to compete with God. Yeah, that's us, always wanting to be in control, always wanting to be in the limelight. This desire is a lot to contend with, but if we are able to put our egos aside and "empty ourselves" when we serve, we can be filled with a love for God that is much stronger and more fulfilling than any praise or power we glean from each other, a love that is intensely, positively and brilliantly consuming.
To help us on the journey of leaving God's signature on the good deeds we do, let's consider these few tips:
Serving one another to bring glory and praise to God and to bring others to Christ is how we show our love for God. It is action-packed; it is challenging; it is a journey like no other. We must deliver Christ's message of salvation in the hope that those we serve will love God as we do and share eternity with us in His presence. It's a hard job, but with God on our side, no one is more qualified than we are!
So, let us reflect on the steps we have learned thus far in becoming good stewards. Let us vow to deflect all praise and glory from ourselves to God and, in so doing, show others the One who sent us.
I thank God for putting both Susan and Derek in my life. I will continue to try to lead Susan to Christ - it is one of my most challenging assignments. As for Derek, I'm pretty sure he is already with Him.
One more step and we're off and running. Stay strong.
(c) 2011, Holy Angels Church.